Lately I’ve been sharing more on my Instagram page about my journey to practice more Intuitive Eating (aka Food Freedom). This is a topic that I’ve been reading and learning all I can about and have had going on behind the scenes in my own life for some time now. And I’m finally ready to share more about it here on the blog.
After trying literally every diet known to man over the years, I’ve finally come to this point in my life, at 39 years old, where I find myself longing to trust myself and my own body more. The way I see it, I’ve trusted other people (the creators of these different diets, calorie tracking apps, other “experts” in the wellness space, etc) to tell me what my body needed, when it needed it, and how much it needed before it was time for me to stop eating.
And I’ll admit…I’ve been guilty of doing that as a health coach in the past, too. But I’m so tired of that disempowering way of living myself.
I recently read the book “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works,” and it solidified the way I’ve been feeling about trusting my own body rather than trusting all the outside sources to tell me what is right for my body when it comes to food. What I’m grateful to finally be understanding is that only I know what’s best for me – I know what I’m craving, and I know when I’m satisfied and ready to stop eating.
No one else knows better for me, than me. And no one else knows better for you, than you.
I just returned from a 5-day vacation on a boat in the middle of the sea, and it was an excellent time for me to put some of the principles of Intuitive Eating into play. There was someone preparing meals for me, so it was almost like eating out every night (she was an amazing chef, by the way).
When I traveled in the past, I always brought so much food with me to ensure I had “healthier” options. I brought oatmeal packets and snack bars and more because I didn’t trust myself fully in restaurants for three meals a day. I didn’t trust myself to make balanced choices.
This trip, all I brought with me were some Liquid I.V. packs to help me stay hydrated, a few of my favorite herbal tea bags, and a few packs of my favorite dark chocolate. The rest of the time I ate all the meals the chef prepared, which was three meals a day. And you know what? It was so, so freeing to finally allow myself to eat anything and everything I wanted. (Note: Intuitive Eating is NOT stuffing ourselves silly. I am NOT saying I ate truckloads of food on this vacation because I did not. Intuitive Eating is eating what you want, when you want it, while still honoring true hunger and satiety cues. I highly recommend reading the book if you’re curious.)
I am planning to write a more extensive post about why I have shifted towards Intuitive Eating & Food Freedom, but for now I just want to share with you how I practiced Intuitive Eating on vacation. Please remember that I am not a medical doctor or dietician, this is just my own personal experience. I always advise you to seek out a medical professional before making any changes to your own diet or lifestyle.
1. I ate when I was hungry.
I wish I could say I’ve always done this, but the truth is I haven’t. In the past I’ve waited to eat until I was long past the point of true hunger, because I was restricting for a fast or for a certain amount of time between meals or because an expert said it was the ideal timing. I’ve also eaten when I wasn’t really hungry, because it was “time” to eat in order to follow the plan. On this trip, I acknowledged my true hunger and if I found my tummy rumbling in between meals, I reached for one of my favorite snacks – a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. Or both. Those kinds of snacks do a great job of keeping me satisfied until the next meal. I’ve learned that for me, waiting until the point that I’m ravenous is waiting too long to eat.
2. I ate what tasted good to me.
Another big learning I’ve taken away from the Intuitive Eating book is to never settle for foods that aren’t really what I want, or for anything that doesn’t taste that good to me once I’ve taken a few bites. Unless I’m in a pinch and I’m really hungry and the food options are limited, I’m learning that I prefer to eat foods that taste delicious and are exactly what I want. This makes eating so much more pleasureable for me, and that’s a big goal of mine for 2019. More every day pleasure. Not settling for mediocre food just because it’s there or it’s “healthier.”
3. No food was off limits.
Another mindset that I’m ditching with this Intuitive Eating lifestyle is the concept that I can’t eat certain foods, because they don’t fit into my “eating plan.” I know that during the week when I’m cooking at home, I love to eat plant based and little to no dairy or other animal products. My digestion feels better when I eat that way *most* of the time. But when I’m on vacation or enjoying a meal out, all bets are going to be off. One day on the trip, the chef made us the most amazing plate of nachos to snack on, and they were covered in cheese and sour cream. They were delicious and were exactly what I wanted in the moment, so I ate them. This is why I really don’t like eating labels, because I believe it can cause guilt whenever an off-limits food is eaten. Guilt and food have no place together (see #6 below).
4. I still honored my body with nutrient-dense foods.
Again, when I’m at home in my regular routine, the foods I tend to stick to are plant-based and nutrient-dense. This is because I know these foods are what makes my body feel best when I eat them frequently. So I was mindful of including plenty of these foods in my meals – fruit with my breakfast, veggies with lunch and dinner, whole grains when possible, nuts for snacks, etc. In the Intuitive Eating book, the authors define healthy eating as having a healthy balance of foods and having a healthy relationship with food. Taste is important, but health is still honored. For me, the takeaway with that is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit packaged foods when possible, eat healthy fats, and drink plenty of water, while balancing that with every day ingulgences, and refusing to feel guilty if it doesn’t always go just that way.
5. I stayed tuned into my body while I was eating, and stopped eating (for the most part) when I was satisfied and just slightly “full.”
Knowing that no foods are off limits, I’ve found that I’m less likely to overeat them when I do eat them. For example, on this trip I had some sort of dessert every day, and I was completely satisfied with just a few bites in most cases, because I knew there would be another treat or dessert later, if I wanted it. Staying tuned in while eating is something that has taken a lot of practice for me. I believe this is because for so long, I relied on external sources (diets, calorie tracking apps, meal plans, etc) to tell me when to stop eating. Again, there’s no way any other person or diet program can decide that for me or for you. Honoring satiety and fullness is just as important as honoring hunger.
I’m learning that I dislike the way it makes me feel (energy, mood, etc) when I eat past the point of fullness. So a few bites into a meal, I’ll ask myself the question, “If I have another bite or two, how full will I be? Will that make me too full?” If the answer is yes, I know it’s time to put the fork down. If the answer is no, I go ahead and have more. But sometimes I still have another bite or two, and that’s okay because…
6. I let go of any guilt around food and the idea of “starting over tomorrow.”
In the past, I’d feel guilty if I ate too much of a food that I deemed less than healthy and would be really focused on eating “healthier” or lighter the next day. But I’m letting go of any guilt related to food and I refuse to beat myself up about it from now on. With that said, I have found that by eating what I’m really craving when I’m craving it, rather than trying to put it off and finding a “healthier” substitution, I am overeating less. The body has an interesting way of shifting once it knows that no food is off limits anymore. Restricted or off-limit foods suddenly lose their luster.
As I mentioned before, these are just a few of the concepts of Intuitive Eating that I’m learning to put into practice in both my every day life, and especially on my recent travels. This is a lifestyle shift and it will be an always-evolving journey, just as I’m an always-evolving human. But I’ve already learned so much about my body’s own signals and I realize now how it’s been trying to communicate with me for so long. Our bodies are very wise and intuitive, when we listen.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this and to find out more about where you are in your own journey towards more Intuitive Eating. Have you read this book, or is this something you already practice in some way? Feel free to share in the comments below or reach out to me on social media.
Love, Elizabeth x